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What our team actually spends their Learning & Visiting Budget on

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Graph of Checkly's Learning & Visiting budget spend in 2023
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Many people have issues figuring out what to do with their learning budget. This is a challenge I’ve heard from many people coming from different types of companies. 

As the Director of People, I don’t like putting strict boundaries in place for policies. Instead, I like to keep them flexible to meet a wide range of needs. 

However, more flexibility and freedom can make it even harder to decide what you want to spend your budget on. In some cases, this ends up resulting in not spending (all of) the budget or even spending it on random courses or books just to not have it go to waste. 

To gather insights, and to inspire our team on some ways they can spend their budget, I dove into the numbers and interviewed some of our team members on how they spent their budget. 

How Checkly’s Learning & Visiting Budget works

Every Checkly team member has a $1,000 “Learning & Visiting Budget” per year. 

It initially started out as a “Learning Budget” and an investment in continuous growth. Team members could spend their budget on books, conferences, courses, apps etc. to increase their effectiveness at work or to help them discover their own potential (for example if they’re considering moving into a people management role).

Soon, we expanded the budget to enable team members to also use it to visit and work alongside each other. To do so, they don’t need to work on the same project or team, so long as they discuss work for at least part of the time they’re meeting. 

There were two main reasons for expanding the use of the budget to also include visits: 

  1. Enhancing collaboration: Checkly is fully remote, and while this offers a lot of flexibility, it can also lead to feelings of isolation. Encouraging colleagues to visit each other can help strengthen bonds and improve collaboration, even when everyone is back to their regular working spot. 
  2. 70:20:10 learning model: The model holds that people obtain 70% of their knowledge on-the-job, 20% from interactions with others like coaches and mentors, and 10% from training and courses. With the belief that most learning happens on-the-job and quite some people were struggling to figure out where to spend their learning budget, it only made sense to make the use of the budget more flexible to adapt to the different needs and different learning styles of different people at different stages in their careers.

How the Learning & Visiting Budget was spent in 2023

Graph of Checkly's Learning & Visiting budget spend in 2023

So what did the team actually spend their $1,000 Learning & Visiting Budget on in 2023? Well, I was excited to dive into the data and find out! 

The biggest category (30.80%) of spend is trainings and courses, such as: 

  • MEDDIC sales training, which our whole sales and solutions engineering team took together
  • Courses on user research, discoveries and building the right thing, dynamic programming, design patterns etc
  • Training on courses on Docker, Prometheus, Kubernetes, AWS etc

The second-biggest category (20.19%) is conferences, including: 

This includes not only the conference tickets, but also accommodation and travel.

Photo of 4 Checkly team members at the WeAreDevelopers conference in Berlin

The third-biggest category (11.43%) is subscriptions for learning platforms, such as

The fourth-biggest category (11.36%) is visiting, including:

  • Meetup in Poland of one of our Engineering teams, which included a Polish vodka tasting and certification
  • Our CEO, Director of Engineering and Engineering Team Lead visiting an ex-colleague in Istanbul
  • Me (Director of People) visiting colleagues in Berlin

More Insights from the Team

Michelle (Software Engineer) used her budget to do a career and goal-setting coaching with Adam Blanchard

I was in a unique situation: Pilar and I were the only juniors at Checkly, trying to grow in a sea of seniors. I had backup from team leads to help me grow, but being fresh in the field, I also needed to figure out for myself where I wanted to go. In order to grow, I believe you first need to know where you want to go. That needs to come from within.  

I found Adam with Kaylie's help. We first did a skills and strengths analysis to see where I was at, and where my general vision of my career was. Based on that, we identified skills I was already good at and would help me grow in my position, and skills I still needed to work on. 

With that knowledge, I went to my team lead to propose how to grow within Checkly. It broadened and deepened my skills to grow as a developer, and to ask for opportunities to grow these skills. 

There's so much to learn, but I learned I have to pick my fights and focus on what is needed now to grow for my use case and for Checkly.

Michelle was promoted from Junior to Intermediate Engineer in January!

Sara (Senior Product Marketing Manager) used her budget to purchase a Developer Marketing Alliance (DMA) membership.

The DMA membership gives you access to a bunch of templates and talks from different developer marketing experts. You also get access to the Slack community, where you can ask questions about other developer marketers’ experiences and best practices. 

I had the most use of the templates, which have saved me quite some time. They have a ready-to-go interview template for case studies, from which I can pick the questions I find relevant.

Chris (Senior Backend Engineer) used his budget to go to the RustLab conference in Florence, Italy.

With the budget, I could pay for the tickets and accommodation at the RustLab conference. Checkly also gave me the time to attend the conference during the workday. 

I chose to spend my budget on this conference because even though we don’t use Rust at Checkly, there were a lot of relevant talks and topics that were being discussed. It was interesting to learn from this ecosystem about things that we can do better at Checkly. 

In particular, one talk that stood out to me was from Deno about doing JavaScript hosting. They addressed similar problems to those we have running checks, and it was interesting to see their approach.

Timo (Chief Customer Officer) used his budget to take a Spanish course

I like to keep learning things that are not directly related to my work, because it opens new perspectives and helps me with my work-life balance. I work virtually all day, so attending a class that’s in-person, with actual people in the room laughing, gives me energy. I can completely disconnect from work during this time. 

The energy that these Spanish classes give me makes me more focused and refreshed at work. It’s also empowering to be bad at something and see how fast you can improve.

Daniel (VP of Engineering) used his budget to work with a speech coach

I work in an international environment where I give presentations internally and externally. I started working with a coach from London Speech Workshop to learn how to better resonate with my audience, speak confidently, and come across confidently. I wasn't too shabby at this, but I figured working with someone might give a little boost to how well I'm doing this. I was also curious about how I German I actually sound.

We meet once a week and do fun exercises to help me pronounce better and also to better keep people's attention during a speech. I already see the results: I speak more clearly, emphasize individual words, and get people's attention in meetings. One colleague even told me I'm his favorite speaker in the entire company!

Many people have issues figuring out what to do with a budget like this. Grabbing a coach or mentor is usually a good use of that money. Courses usually require a lot of time, which you don't have in a startup. Having a coach or mentor is very helpful with becoming self-aware about things you do or not do. This is in my opinion much more valuable than completing random courses, especially when you're not a junior in your role.

Morgan (Director of Operations) used her budget for a Running Remote membership.

Working in a small startup, fully remotely, the Running Remote community gives me a way to interact with other people who are doing similar work. This makes me much more confident that we are implementing best practices. It’s no longer just me thinking something will work, but I’ve got actual feedback and experiences to lean on. This way, the community not only directly impacts my work, but everyone else’s at Checkly.

Court (Sales Development Representative) used his budget to work with a coach specialized in outbound copywriting.

I needed some support with copywriting, which was one of my weaker SDR skills. The alternatives to working with a coach are self-learning or leveraging AI, and those weren’t working so well for me. 

So I decided to work with an expert who can help me 1-on-1 and have a direct impact. At a previous company, we had a sales coach, who would meet with us regularly, which was super helpful. We don’t have that role at Checkly, so I decided to use my learning budget to fill that gap. I found a great teacher and expert to steal ideas from, do it myself and then have them check it to get feedback. This has improved my reply rates and increased the amount of discovery calls I book.

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